The Boogie Soundtrack for JoJo's Beloved - Imbibe Magazine Subscribe + Save

The Boogie Down Soundtrack of JoJo’s Beloved Cocktail Lounge

After two years in lockdown, the irresistible grooves of disco music can hearken to a carefree era of dancing and sparkly fashions. It’s easy to see why this particular genre of music became the foundation for JoJo’s Beloved Cocktail Lounge in Atlanta, one of our Imbibe 75 Places to Watch in 2022. “You have to realize this [bar] is a child of 2020 and 2021. We’re all locked up and we wanted to go somewhere else,” says Will Donaldson, CEO and founder of Politan Group, the bar’s parent company.

The Bar Is Disco

Stuck at home during the lockdowns, Donaldson and his team sought inspiration for their new bar through the curation of playlists. “We couldn’t decide whether we wanted to just do an ‘80s bar or what we wanted the bar to look like,” he says. In the end, they designed a disco bar with touches of ’80s futurism, synced up to their playlist. “There’s the TomTom Club song. There are a couple of things in there that aren’t purely ‘70s. We formed the idea for the bar by narrowing down the playlist until it was solidly a disco bar,” says Donaldson.

In the weeks leading up to the bar’s launch, opening beverage director Sophie Burton, beverage coordinator Benton Bourgeois, and Donaldson hit record stores hard. However, due to the scarcity of the more popular disco albums, the team had to do a deep dive into the genre. “We ended up with Barrabás, which is a Spanish disco band from the late ’70s, early ’80s, which is really wild. It’s fun. But it forces us to find some things that we wouldn’t otherwise listen to,” Donaldson says.

Establishing the Vibe

Today the bar houses about 250 records. Its collection is in constant flux to prevent JoJo’s Beloved from falling into the routine of a neighborhood bar. “There’s a really warm place in my heart for neighborhood bars. But for this one, we wanted it to be an escapist experience,” says Donaldson. And it has become one. Those too young to have survived the first coming of bell-bottoms now arrive impeccably dressed in costume.

Although JoJo’s Beloved plays vinyl, the original Spotify playlist for the bar serves as its mission statement. The playlist link is emailed with reservation confirmations to establish the vibe early on. And it also influences the cocktail list’s drink names and styles.

“The cocktail that went with [Barry White’s] ‘Welcome Aboard’ was the ‘Seventy-One Streets,’ which is a Fuzzy Navel riff,” Donaldson says. “We’re building a bar in Atlanta, we need a peach schnapps drink. ‘Seventy-One Streets’ is SOS, which is a famous band. And there are 71 streets called ‘Peachtree’ in Atlanta, and we’re on one of them.” 

No (Well, Some) Rules

The 1,200-square-foot bar accommodates about 60 seats, and most nights require bar-goers to make reservations. However, Monday nights welcome walk-ins, and things get a little loose. The bartenders are free to riff, and the music explores beyond the bounds of disco. One Monday, JoJo’s Beloved did a ’90s theme night where they served espresso martinis and clarified sour apple martinis.

“That’s been really fun because it’s allowed all the bartenders to be inspired by the exploration. It allows us to work on the periphery around the definition of JoJo’s,” says Donaldson. 

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